TTAG’s blogged the development of so-called “smart guns” for years. With President Obama’s executive order paving the way for government agencies to deploy guns requiring electronic owner identification of one sort or another, the issue is back in the news. As a free market guy, I see no reason why “smart guns” shouldn’t be available for sale. As a gun guy, I see lots of reason why you should never buy one. Here are my top three . . .
1. “Smart guns” will never be foolproof – and you’re the fool
I don’t care how much you’ve trained for a defensive gun use. When the excrement hits the rotating air circulation device, you’re an awkward fool. For one thing, a massive adrenaline dump moves blood away from your extremities (a hard-wired reaction to protect you from bleeding). As the Rabbi puts it, fingers turn to flippers. Fine motor skills go bye-bye.
For another, your cognitive abilities (i.e. higher brain functions) go walkies. The idea of adding an extra step to the process of armed self-defense is inherently, not to say profoundly dangerous. (The main reason you should never carry an unloaded gun.) A “smart gun” that requires any additional manipulation — including precise hand placement — is potentially catastrophic.
“Smart gun” developers know this. That’s why they’re trying to develop supposedly foolproof firearms.
At least one potential manufacturer has developed a weapon requiring an access code for initial activation. Others have opted for systems dependent on a functioning watch (as above) or ring. The danger of a mechanical or behavioral malfunction in those systems is pretty obvious.
Most “smart gun” makers are working on creating guns with automatic user identification embeded in the firearm, usually relying on your finger or palm print. When you grab your gun the system recognizes you and “allows” you to fire the weapon.
Any gun-mounted user identification system would have to be lightning quick and 100 percent foolproof. It would have to work under all conditions, including temperature variations and in the event of a bad (i.e., poor or emergency) grip.
By the same token, a fingerprint or palm print recognition system will be defeated if you’re wearing a glove or your finger or hand is covered in a substance preventing recognition. A substance like…blood. Gunfights can be bloody affairs. Now what?
If you believe that a foolproof “smart gun” is a possibility, consider the fact that existing guns — machines which rely on simple, highly evolved mechanical processes — can and do fail. For example, I shot a Smith & Weson revolver where a basic mechanical lock seized up in the middle of a string of fire. Magazine failures are relatively common (the reason you should always carry a spare).
In other words, guns already aren’t foolproof. No matter how well designed and manufactured, adding an electronic system on top of the mechanical functions increases the risk of a malfunction. Some people will be willing to accept that risk. You shouldn’t. You should take responsibility for your firearm’s security. Period.
2. “Smart guns” are personalized — and that’s a problem
The “smart gun” concept: you and only you should be able to fire your gun. There are potential circumstances where you’d want someone else to fire your gun. For example, you could be incapacitated during a gunfight. Someone like a friend, family member or nearby good guy could use your gun to save your life. Unless they can’t because it’s “smart.” By the same token, you might want to use someone else’s gun to save your or someone else’s life. Remember: you’re not a cop. You may find yourself in a chaotic self-defense scenario where you need to take possession of the bad guy’s or a fellow innocent’s gun.
What are the odds of this happening? About the same as the odds of a revolver locking up. Which is to say extremely low, but not impossible. Smaller than the odds of an authorized user taking your gun and using it to commit suicide or a crime? Probably. Again, it’s up to you. Again, your gun’s security is your responsibility.
3. “Smart guns” are open to outside interference
Any electronic device is open to “jamming.” Admittedly, your average criminal is unlikely to carry a gun jamming device — if only because his or her intended victims could still have a “dumb” gun. Unlikely, but not outside the realm of possibility. And don’t forget that there is such a thing as an above average criminal.
The greater danger: police could use a jammer to disable your natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to use a firearm for self-defense. Make no mistake, if guns can be jammed, the government will have jammers. Who’s going to [successfully] argue that people guarding sensitive locations like schools and nuclear power plants shouldn’t equip themselves or the facilities with electronic gun jammers?
Even if your “smart gun” isn’t jammed, it could be remotely monitored. The NSA’s enthusiasm for cell phone interception indicates that the government is ready, willing and able to remotely monitor “smart guns.” If you’re one of those people who believes “If I’m doing nothing wrong, I have nothing to worry about,” by all means, carry a “smart gun.” If you’re not, don’t.
Something to think about. Meanwhile, I’ll just leave this here: the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Even the Lawgiver II wasn’t infallible.
My iPhone fingerprint reader sometimes fails. Other times, it “hangs” for a second processing my thumbprint, or won’t process my thumbprint at all because my grip isn’t perfect. That’s inconvenient, but probably not fatal. Usually. People have crashed cars while distracted by their phones and while trying to troubleshoot their phones in moving cars.
I have no desire to add another avenue of failure to firearms.
One of the Mommie groups has an offered engineering prize for developing a workable smart gun. The prize specs call for two different versions, a LEO version and civilian version. The only difference is that in the LEO version, if the electronics fail, the gun will still fire. In the civilian version, if the electronics fail, the gun won’t fire. I think that’s the direction this whole thing is heading as far a regulations go.
The government would never develop a device designed to cause all “smart guns” within range to malfunction and fail to fire.
/set Sarcasm off
Wait a minute…. if the police version is designed to still fire if the “smart” part fails…. how exactly is that a smart gun??? I already have a closet full of police-spec smart guns apparently.
The system has a self-diagnostic. It knows if it is working or not. If it is working, neither gun will fire if it is not in the hands of the owner. But the electronics detect that the system is not working, let’s say the battery is dead, the LEO version fails “hot,” and will shoot but the civilian version fails “cold” and will not shoot.
Can we all stop calling a gun designed NOT to go bang when you need it most, “Smart”? I hate using the anti’s terminology.
To me a smart gun would auto target, track and destroy regardless of the direction pointed when fired. That’s a “smart” gun.
“To me a smart gun would auto target, track and destroy regardless of the direction pointed when fired. That’s a “smart” gun.”
Like the ‘Tracking Point’.
Uh, oh. It looks the ‘Tracking Point’ has been hacked:
“Last year, husband-and-wife security experts Runa Sandvik and Michael Auger hacked Tracking Point’s TP750 sniper rifle through its built-in Wi-Fi connection. In a demonstration for Wired Magazine, they were able to take control of the rifle’s targeting system remotely and aim it at a different target without the shooter knowing.”
I agree, “smart” is a human trait. High tech phones for example are simply programs responding (sometimes) to a demand. These electronic guns do not think they process. I think Identification Restricted Firearm is a more accurate term but the gun grabbers want to push the a more acceptable evil gun over the normal evil guns. Why? It gives them another tool to regulate and control the Gun Industry and citizen users. Look at the abusive use of the term gun safety by gun grabbers and how they push their agenda with it.
Implant an RFID chip into your writs, there would need to be a reader and batteries in the gun, but it would solve the blood problem.
I think you could do that with a ring, preferably implanted in your and your spouses’ wedding rings. To me that’s the most promising of all these idea, though I still don’t like it.
That’s fine, as long as you never have to fire the gun with only your right hand. At least you’ll have a good reason to never practice one handed manipulations.
Cops who carry them have two rings.
Never. N-E-V-E-R will I buy a gun that can be electronically disabled. That Risk-Benefit equation doesn’t even come close to making sense.
“3. “Smart guns” are open to outside interference”
As far as they are concerned, that’s a *feature*, to be exploited.
The criminal element will have jammers as well.
I know, we all agree we all hate the smart gun, but if they made a dumb gun that looked like the one in the pic AND was a good shooter with a nice trigger I’d have to at least consider it.
It looks like a pistol you’d see in a semi-futuristic movie where they never tell you the actual year it takes place but you can assume it’s about 20-30 years from now.
Buy a 22 pistol and some bondo. Paint it up and you too can have yourself a “stupid” smart gun.
the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Actually, the road to hell is paved by politicians, and none of their intentions are good.
Ralph, can we start using politicians for paving stones? That would be a tempting road to jump up and down on wearing a pair of my dads old metal spike golf shoes.
À la lanterne!
“…and none of their intentions are good.”
Their intentions are good, for themselves.
And no politicians as paving stones. I don’t want the aggravation of cleaning politician guts off my ride. It’s corrosive…
Politician paving stones are a horrible Idea. Every time you go for a walk you would have to clean bullscat off your shoes.
If a Smart Gun fails and police officer or citizen is harmed because it allowed an assailant to use the gun against the good guy, does that Smart Gun Manufacture get sued out of existence or does the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act protect Smart Guns too? Oh, the Irony!
Actually, that would be the one time that they could be sued. If the one reason to buy the gun is to keep ‘unauthorized’ users from using it and allowing ‘authorized’ users to use it, and the product doesn’t do the one thing it is supposed to, then the manufacturer could lawfully be sued. Probably.
I have nothing against new technology in the Firearms community. However Something that is not proven to work at least 95 to 98% reliable is In no way Ready to be used In firearms. The whole idea of adding a computer microchip to a handgun That gets extremely hot And has A lot of G-Force impacts Is not a good dad for a computer chip. Not to mention weather conditions humidity and a half a dozen other things. The safe gun is not safe. That’s why law enforcement Has an exclusion To not have to carry them Because they don’t work.
Attaching our property to the Internet of things is a very bad idea.
Attaching our rights to the Internet of things is essentially giving up.
To add something to point 2 – I surmise the smart gun would be personalized to a finger/thumbprint on your dominant hand. Should your dominant hand/arm become disabled, you’d move to support side, one-handed shooting….with a gun personalized to you that no longer fires.
You wrote an article in 2014 on how Armatix filed for a patent on a remote lockout feature for smart guns.
So the intent is there. As the tech sector loves to say about pretty much everything else, “the genie is out of the bottle…”
Armatix filed a patent on a remote lockout, which means they’ve done some research and may even have a working prototype of a smart gun that can be disabled. That gateway can be exploited by anyone else with the know-how as well.
A dystopian future where all guns sold are “smart” with the remote lockout feature in place would lead to criminals being able to lock out civilian (and LE) guns. Imagine a situation where a bank is being robbed, and the criminals have the lockout device with them. They jam the guns of the bank’s security guards, and any LE who show up. Or worse, they jam the gun of a citizen they want to victimize.
If the tech comes to market, fine. But if they want to make it mandatory, no effing way.
I respect the author’s points, but I would personally STILL be interested in a smart gun that only I could fire that unlocked with biometrics and had a manual over ride. I would never want to see a mandate requiring locks, but I feel the more options the better.
To the first point. Yes, you lose cognitive ability during any stressful situation. Training with the firearm will give me enough familiarity to unlock it using extra step. I don’t see this as any different than being familiar with little quirks on every firearm that causes a potential ftf. How often have I instructed and then let non gun friends shoot one of my glocks and watched them forget to chamber a round, not insert magazine properly, not release slide, etc? Once you are familiar with your weapon, those problems don’t occur.
Second point is also valid, but I would rather take my chances of my being the only one required to use it vs. anyone being able to use it including against me. I don’t know the statistics, but I’m sure in my case it’s far more likely to be stolen or turned against me then my needing to use it and not being able to.
3rd point also valid. But I don’t care if law enforcement has jammers. I don’t care if facilities have jammers either as I don’t carry and if I did, it wouldn’t be a biometric. I bet a criminal or terrorist would opt for a gun that can’t be jammed as well, thus negating jammers.
If the country goes to a point where I fear law enforcement or military jamming my gun so they can take me down, I won’t be keeping a little biometric pop gun pistol by bed. I’ll be out in shop with AR and AK with lathe, files, drill press, welder, ordinance steel, tannerite, propane, strike anywhere matches, fuses, firework igniters, gasoline, and contact switches, ignoring every FBI and ATF rule I think I need to to ensure my safety
I won’t be buying a biometric locked gun anytime soon though, I’m a late adopter. I’m also cheap. Wouldn’t it be just as fast, cheaper, more secure to have a biometric fingerprint bedside safe with a manual key or combination option?
What would clearly be fast, cheap, and effective would be to forget locking away the guns and go back to locking up or otherwise neutralizing the criminals.
6: Murphy’s Law (Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. And at the worst possible moment)
I will add virtually ANY mechanism that would be in a gun that would make it “smart” would either be easily subverted by a criminal or suicidal person after accessed or would fail in a very unsafe manner if you needed the gun in an emergency. Perhaps both.
I don’t think they are ever going to get Biometrics to work 100%. Anything with electronics is probably a bad idea. That being said, there are cops who carry mag-loc style guns with rings. But the anti guners will never go for that as anyone with a magnet can defeate the lock.
So TAG is wrong when they say no one uses or wants “smart” guns. And the antis are wrong when they think a smart gun is going to render a gun inactive to anyone but the owner
First laws mandating smart guns….I figure two weeks later they’ll need another law making it illegal to hack them (disable the smart feature (Leo carve out included). Two more weeks and the next law for possessing a jammer, etc etc etc…… total crimes stopped by all of the laws… same as before they existed…ZERO!
Welp, just did some research and I hate to append but I shall anyways.
Based on some quick and dirty engineering a bit of filing on piece 170 will render the “smart” feaure of this gun 100% inoperable. I’d say a few minutes with a Dremel and you’ve “dumbed down” your gun. Keep in mind this is a retrofit system I think it’s for a Glock actually but it wouldn’t surprise me if the actual mechanism worked very similarly.
Also the patent appears to be filed in 07. There could easily be a plethora of companies start up when they don’t have to license the tech.
LOL. Unintended consequences.
Here is a fourth reason why “Smart Guns” are a stupid idea.
“Smart Guns” are pointless.
In about 9 months Mr. Hope and Change will prance out of the White House for the last time and President Orange Haired Monster will strut in to take his place. There will be 400 million privately owned “dumb” firearms in this country. 400 million. Not too long ago I went to the range with a friend who wanted to shoot his 1873 Trapdoor Springfield. 1873 was 143 years ago. Firearms are damn near immortal if cared for properly and they outnumber the adult population of this country 2 to 1. What possible impact could the introduction of iGuns have?
I want a smart gun. Here’s my response.
1.) “Smart guns” will never be foolproof – and you’re the fool
You can reasonable try to solve the engineering problem of detecting the user. No improvements can be made without actual attempts. There are mechanical/electrical software issues abound that need some work, since the current efforts are lackluster, as you have pointed out.
2.) “Smart guns” are personalized — and that’s a problem
Its a design feature. I fully understand someone wouldn’t be able to use the firearm to my own aid. Maybe I don’t want anyone in my household to be able to fire the gun. Case in point: Spousal abuse.
3.) “Smart guns” are open to outside interference
So is every single intelligent weapon system employed by the armed forces. Do some reading on EMI shielding. Every “smart” missile takes precaution against jamming and interference.
You have mainly posted about engineering problems that can be solved. And there is a market for these solutions. Identifying the operator reliably on any device would be a handy bit of innovation.
No one is suggesting to forestall innovation. What the fear is that smart gun technology will become mandatory. Even if it works 99.99999 percent of the time, i.e. better than a traditional mechanical gun, people should always have the option to eschew the technology if they wish. You can still drive stick, despite the fact that semi-autonomous vehicles are on our roads right now.
I completely agree with you. I would own a both types of firearms (smart & traditional).
“You have mainly posted about engineering problems that can be solved.”
Tell ya what, Randall,
Solve this problem: No battery lasts forever. Heck, no battery lasts as long as the primers and propellant in modern ammunition.
I want to put a gun in my bedside table and leave it there for forty years, and I want it to work when I unexpectedly need it, without fail. I have guns that will do that. Design a “smart gun” that can do that, and then you can say you have solved the engineering problems.
I clean my carry guns regularly. I would check the batteries in a smart gun at the reccomended interval. If you want to bury a gun in the ground for 40 years as smart gun wouldn’t be a good fit.
I am not saying smart guns for every application, all the time. Just that I would buy one if they were available and reliable.
And yes. there is pushback from the firearms community over fears the government will mandate all firearms have identification technology. They are not unreasonable fears. But that doesn’t change my position.
There are situations in which smart guns would be very useful and the benefits would offset the risks.
There are situations where the opposite would be true.
Don’t confuse engineering with politics.
A good “smart gun” technology would allow you to keep a gun openly accessible in a house with kids — as in a nightstand drawer — instead of using a quick-open gunsafe. A quick-open gunsafe is going to rely on the same fallible technology as the smartgun itself, so it’s a wash at worst.
As for security, electronic technology is running all sorts of vital systems — from automobiles racing down the highway to airliners in the sky overhead to elevators in skyscrapers to doors and gates in prisons. The potential for hacking or interference is always there. It has not caused us to remain on “analog” systems anywhere else.
The systems running vital infrastructure and systems have redundancies built in and do not fail as often as a smart gun does. A smart gun is like having brakes that three out of every ten times fail to engage in your car.
I have come to believe we are all acting irrationally. Starting now, I am getting on board with this effort by Dear Leader, I think he should tap the Clintons’ slush fund and send each American his own smart gun. If they are such a great idea, hand ’em over! He thought smart phones so wonderful he gave away millions of them, albeit mostly to people who looked just like his son, or something. Why not give away smart guns, too? And why should we turn them down?
So we will be required to exchange dumb guns for smart ones so utopia is achieved?
Criminals too? How does that plan work?
The objective is to reduce homicides, suicides, and mass shootings in which the assailant uses a gun that isn’t theirs. While the whole self-defense scenario is still a valid point, the number of gun-related deaths in America would decrease significantly. I think that’s worth it. I get that it sucks for gun owners that the government may try to take away some of their guns, just because a few bad eggs ruin things for all of us, but I also strongly believe that it’s infinitely more important to protect someone’s God-given right to life than someone else’s Constitutional right to own a gun.
Additionally, the percentage of law-abiding gun owners who are, at any point in time, involved in a life-threatening gunfight is incredibly small, especially when compared to the number of people who are murdered by a gun that has no business being in the hands of the assailant.
In over 100 years, the only real innovation in firearms technology has been plastic instead of steel, fiberglass instead of wood. I can’t think of any other technology that has not seen dramatic technological advancement during that period.
There’s a reason for that. When you depend on something to defend your life, simplicity is a good thing.
If you have to wear a certain watch to allow your gun to work, you will also be easily identified as carrying a firearm just by the thing on your wrist. I’d bet $100 Buzzfeed and/or Huffington Post would post all over saying “LOOK! THIS WATCH MEANS HE HAS A GUN AND IS A PSYCHO”
Same with a ring, since most of us would be wearing that ring on our right hand, making it obviously NOT a wedding band. Or on the same fingers on both hands, if it was something like the old rare earth interlocks. Personally, I’d have to opt for an implant, since I don’t wear rings or watches. The downside, of course, is that if you sold your gun/got a new gun, you’d have to have surgery to change out the rfid chip. This doesn’t even address the issue of someone who owns multiple guns–get the wrong watch/ring, and your gun won’t fire.
Which calls for capability to slave a gun to implant. After a visit to local LE headquarters and a lot of paperwork. Black market will love the idea, of course.
I can’t even keep a cell phone around long enough before it’s tech needs updating or it’s considered obsolete.
There are countless problems with this topic.
Id rather see development of smart politician technology before anything else.
Its obviously a resounding no on smart gun technology for the masses.
Walk away people, smart guns are a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist.
How about we get back to basics like…lock up violent criminals and keep them locked up .
I could see a scenario in the near future unfold that goes something like this:
Ye Alde Laptop Shoppe
Can you jailbreak my grandma’s smartgun she just “died”.
Yes, this addresses a problem that really doesn’t exist. It may prevent some child deaths, but are there really enough of them to spend BILLIONS of dollars in research and development and retrofitting of manufacturing facilities to produce them? We are talking about a few hundred cases per year, many of which can easily be prevented with existing technology (aka gun safes). How many cops are shot each year when their firearms are taken? I don’t know, but I think it is less than 50. Substantially less than 50. And what will be the risks if these guns fail? People may die. Are the lives sacrificed on the alter of technology worth less than the lives that may be saved? From a cost benefit ration, the development of smart guns cannot be justified. Its only “justifications,” if one wishes to call them that, is “feels,” i.e., purely emotional, irrational reasons that do little but express an underlying fear of guns. ot that that has ever stopped the gun banners, or ever will. We’d be better off if they all underwent aversion therapy.
Bottom line is don’t force it on people. I prefer no manual safety, but others want their manual safety, grip safety, mag safety, fingerprint safety or whatever and that’s fine too. Freedom to choose is good.
Armatix wrist band gun is a not a smart gun. It is a slave gun. The wrist band is the master, The gun is the slave. This needs to be publicized. Nobody wants to be attached to slavery. Yet the relationship between the gun (slave) tethered (leashed) to the band (master). Ironically, this is the type of society progressives envision. No wonder they like this gun so much.
I would never so much even consider any type of “smart” gun unless legislation is pre-enacted to prevent the hacking of electronic guns. But we all know that won’t happen. So no slave gun for me…ever.
Though Smartgun and Smart Gun Trademarks have been protected in the past they have been abandoned and are available. Sombody with $600 can register both define it as they see fit and sue all the idiots pushing smart guns for trademark infringement.
We need to refer to the Technology as IDENTIFICATION RESTRICTED FIREARMS. “Smart” is a marketing gimmick. We don’t call our computers smart computers do we?
The current efforts are simple fingerprint readers….first gen stuff. What about new products that will have much more sophisticated ways of detecting you, helping the shooter determine threats and the intent of the person the weapon is pointed at.
Lets re imagine the firearm into something better, not just for safety but new levels of performance too.
Self driving cars, smart guns…all going to happen. What features they have and how we embrace them is the job of the community. If we don’t get involved with shaping the smart gun future others will make the decisions for us.
BTW, the real answer is smart bullets. Giving the user the option of using them or traditional ammo and they would work in every current firearm.
Let’s quit trying to stop the efforts and ask more from the technology than a simple fingerprint reader.
Self-driving cars will always remain drivable with the self-driving feature just an option. There are some already saying that self-driving should be mandated and driving outlawed, when that happens, you will see a resistance against such legislation in the same way we have resistance against gun control, because driving one’s own vehicle is a major part of freedom and there are also situations where you may HAVE to drive your own vehicle (natural disaster, Rodney King-type riot, etc…could you imagine a riot like that happening and your car is just mosying its way along down the road and even stops when people block the road so as not to harm them?).
My comment is not to say there is one way to view these technologies. My point is new tech will happen because history has proven it over and over again. So lets shape it vs. hide from it. Incandescent lamps were the dominant technology for 100 years and in the span of 10 years LED’s have made them irrelevant. Just saying keep an open mind and don’t dismiss everything that’s not been around for 100 years.
I do not have any fingerprints, which would mean I would have to use the watch-operated electronic gun, which would mean all manner of possible problems. Also President Obama is very arrogant to demand that the government agencies adopt so-called smart guns.
I bet even Obama’s administration understands that at current stage of technology, backlash will be huge and universally negative.
As of now, biometric scanners are worthless for the task. They are not reliable/fast enough.
Wireless/RFID technology could in theory provide fast proximity unlock. The devil is in details, some of them were pointed out above. RFID solution will require implant(s) or visible container(s) for RFID key. It needs power to work both radio tranceiver in the gun and some actuator that operates mechanical interlocks in the gun. A battery that is resilient to cold (below 0 C), eco-friendly (super-duper important these days!), compact and not expensive…suddenly I am out of ideas.
Then comes security. Off-the-shelf RFID stuff allows for quick recognition of key by gun, but it operates at known frequency band. Makes jamming quite possible. Even better (worse?), by making a tag respond to RFID tranceiver, the presence of gun owner might be detected. The handshake process of Armatrix was (ridiculously) long and complex for security reasons, and it was spectucular failure, as the whole rig became simply unusable.
Let the Military and Police “prove the tech” and maybe I’ll bite.
I like the futuristic look of that smart gun
Looks like a Star Trek phaser!
Could I buy an old fashioned ‘ dumb” gun with cool looks like that?
How about a shell I put over my Bersa Thunder to give it a jetsons kind of look?
One thing that I see seldom mentioned is the age of the “Smart Gun.” What happens in 5, 10, or 15 years when the technology is obsolete on the gun that you bought today? Eventually they’ll be countless videos and websites dedicated to hacking older Smart Guns.
Will the owner be required to pay for an expensive update every few years? Will there even be a repair part available for older/broken Smart Guns?
Will the government set standards for Smart Gun technology in firearms, and do we really want these jackasses involved in setting tech requirements? How many of you remember, “The shoulder thing that goes up?”
Would you use a parachute that depended on RFID or biometric locks?
“Smart” guns…Ah, the signal of the end of an age called personal responsibility. The igun…hahaha, “hold on mr. burgler/rapist…my gun needs an update…”
Amazing things here. I am very happy to look
your post. Thanks so much and I amm taking a look
ahead to contact you. Will you kiundly drop me a mail?
Best view i have ever seen !